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They come in all shapes and sizes...and that’s just the owners. All of whom share a common trait: They love and cherish their furry friends.
Pets in the Roanoke Valley are as unique as their owners. Here are some of the owners, their pets and their stories.
Mark Dearing and Pepper
The minute Mark Dearing laid eyes on 12-week-old Pepper, he was done for. Pepper was a jet black German shepherd from a breeder in Hardy—“probably worth $500-$600,” says Mark—who was presented to him for free by his friend Sophie Semones.
“When these well-bred dogs reach that age and they aren’t sold,” says the owner of Salem Imports, a VW repair shop, “they become victims of diminishing returns.”
So, “Sophie showed up and said, ‘I have a dog for you.’ I didn’t want a dog. I’d raised Belgian shepherds for years and when the fifth one finally died, I said, ‘I ain’t doin’ this no more.’ It’s just too tough to bury them.”
But Pepper grabbed Mark’s heart strings and she’s been the official greeter at his business for nearly two years now, a friendly dog who seems to be roundly appreciated by Mark’s customers.
Whitney Hankins and the menagerie
There’s a long pause when you ask Whitney Hankins how many pets she has. Her thumb runs across her fingers and her eyes look off in the distance. Her mother jumps in: “A dozen.” Then Whitney says, “Or maybe 13.”
You see them parked all over the small house in Mt. Pleasant, comfy in their neat cages: chinchillas, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, a hedgehog, a glofish, a beagle and a husky. They are all tucked away, peeking around corners, avoiding the intruder.
Whitney is a 2012 Hollins biology grad who works at the Avian and Exotic Pet Clinic in Roanoke, a young woman who has been absorbed with critters since she was a child. She wanted to be a vet for the longest time and is now a kind of vet nurse. Most of her animals are inherited from people “who have no time for caring for them any more. They all seem to come to me that way.” She calls it “re-homing.”
The exotic phase of her collection began four years ago when she started her job at the pet clinic.
Lizetta Staplefoote and Hendrix
Owning a dog—especially a grown dog that weighed in at 120 pounds and ate like a teenager—was not on the immediate agenda for Lizetta Staplefoote and her sons. They had a cat, which none of them especially liked, but the dog just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
“I had this [German shepherd] for a long time and he was hit by a truck and killed in front of me,” says Staplefoote. “I was crushed and swore I’d never have another.” But Hendrix (yep, named after that Hendrix and yep, a German shepherd) showed up because his owner could no longer care for him. “We were supposed to take care of him for the weekend,” Staplefoote says. It didn’t work out that way.
Staplefoote got more than she bargained for or could even expect: companion, protector, entertainment, company during the day when she is working at home (for Rackspace as a “content provider”).
“I video conference with [Rackspace] people in Texas and they all want to know about Hendrix,” she says. She has taken up hiking again since the big dog has been her pardner, not fearing the perils of the trail. He also is better than a shotgun at home, should anyone want to break in.
And, of course, with her teen-aged boys Garvey (17) and Solomon (16) her grocery bill is monstrous. But, she insists, it’s worth every penny.
Robin Reed and Magnolia
Teresa Reed, the popular TV meterologist’s artist wife, sees it clearly: Magnolia “has Robin’s eyes.” Yep. This is a case of looking like your dog and Robin and Maggie were separated at birth.
Magnolia is an older (9), smaller (65 pounds) version of a breed—the Basset hound—that endears itself quickly to owners by tripping on its ears as a pup and generally being inadvertently comical through life. Robin and Teresa had owned a Basset for a number of years before “one day Murphy needed to go to heaven.” Word got out and a woman handed Robin a business card at a home show a bit thereafter. It led him to Corky Kennels in Christiansburg where Maggie lived. Robin and Teresa watched the Basset puppies tumble over a hill and were hooked again.”
Maggie has the distinction of “being the only Reed ever fired by WDBJ,” says Robin. Seems Maggie was used in a commercial for virginiasearchdog.com—a search engine developed by the station that had no success. “They had to let Maggie go.”